Football was introduced by the British colonialists back in the mid-nineteenth century in the region which we today know by the name of Pakistan. Soon, domestic football clubs began to take root in the region, with the first one, Kohat FC, being established in 1930. The club went on to become the first outstation team to win the North-West India Football Championship in 1937.
You’d also be surprised to know that the Pakistan Football Federation (1947) was established two years before the Pakistan Cricket Board (1949). However, the latter now remains the only properly functioning sport’s governing body in the country.
Four months after Pakistan won independence from the British Empire, the PFF was established with Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah being its patron-in-chief.
So, if football in Pakistan is almost as old as the country itself, where did we go wrong? Why is it that football has completely died down in the country, with the focus mostly being on no other sport but cricket?
The Decline of Football in Pakistan
The Pakistani men’s national football team’s return to international football after a long gap of three years is certainly a sigh of relief.
The team played against Nepal in the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship after FIFA lifted its year-long ban on the PFF earlier in June this year. This was the second time FIFA had suspended Pakistan’s national governing body for football in a span of 5 years.
Corruption, mismanagement, political interference, gross negligence by the government and an acute lack of funds & facilities have together led to the dysfunctional state of all 41 federations of sports in Pakistan.
The national football team of Pakistan is currently ranked at 194 in the world. Out of 211 countries. The abysmal state of football in Pakistan is mind-boggling.
So, whom should we blame? Whom should we hold accountable? Apparently, it’s the PFF which has single-handedly destroyed the beautiful game in Pakistan.
Challenges & Issues
To begin with, there’s just no infrastructure, training facilities or academies to help develop future athletes. None at all. In fact, Pakistan’s national football team doesn’t even have its own designated stadium.
Globally, domestic leagues help countries to identify their future stars and nourish them. Leagues of sports help promote local talent and present an opportunity for emerging players to showcase their abilities on the big stage.
Sadly, the Pakistan Premier League is one of the worst-run football leagues in the world. I’m guessing that’s the first time you’ve read that name and came across the fact that Pakistan actually has a domestic football league.
However, all other factors aside, the 12-year tenure of Faisal Saleh Hayat as the president of the PFF was the final nail in the coffin of football in Pakistan.
A prominent politician and a once PPP loyalist, Hayat became the president of the PFF in 2003 and remained in the position uninterrupted until 2015, when charges of corruption were filed against him.
During the decade-long tenure of Faisal Saleh Hayat, Pakistan’s ranking in football nose-dived to the bottom of the world.
Despite getting funds from the federal government, FIFA and the AFC, the PFF kept lamenting the lack of funds during Hayat’s presidency. He left behind a legacy in football which will be deplored by generations to come in Pakistan.
To conclude, until the entire structure of the PFF is revamped and some sort of long-term mechanism is devised to develop football in Pakistan, the future doesn’t appear to be very bright.